Thursday, December 5, 2013
Vittorio Grigolo, tenor
The Sistine Chapel Choir
ISBN# 8 8883 78637 2 8
Grigolo's official website
My Delight of the Week! Growing up as a member of the Sistine Chapel choir, Grigolo developed a love of traditional church music and the literature of great vocal music. Paying tribute to his training and faith, this CD uses settings of Ave Maria as a repeated touchstone for a varity of works that showcase his magnificent voice.
Frank Morelli, basson
Gilbert Kalish, piano
ISBN# 6 81585 14582 1
Morelli's official website
This CD takes the creamy sound of basson and uses that "voice" in our most challenging selections for this week. Works from the 1900s either written or transcribed for bassoon. Ravel's "Kaddish" will be a familiar resonance, with works that will be new to most, and a surprisingly tuneful Sonata by Hindemith. While these selections will appeal most to the very musically adventurous, Morelli has a wealth of recordings available to make a gift of smooth bassoon-y indulgence.
The Canadian Brass
STEINWAY & SONS 30027
ISBN# 0 34062 30027 3
for more info. on The Canadian Brass
The Canadian Brass is always finding new ways to bring us adventures in brass music. After a serious and pleasing release earlier this year of full works by Schumann transcribed for Brass, they turn their Christmas attention to popular works composed for animated holiday specials. A sure-fire people pleaser!
THE 5 BROWNS
The Rite of Spring
STEINWAY & SONS 30031
ISBN# 0 34062 30031 0
5 Browns official website
The five browns have grown up in front of audience, always "wow-ing" with the rare combination of five pianos in a unified voice. This new release takes major orchestral works and transcribes them for 5 pianos. While the Browns say they were attracted to the percussive elements of the Rite of Spring, placing this work within the same voicing of multiple pianos gives it a surprisingly mellow flavor... just like the Browns themselves... something unexpected.
Pax Dei Trio (Flute, Harp, & Soprano)
for artist info. & CD purchase
ISBN# 8 22371 14127 0
On November 17th the Pax Dei Trio performed locally as part of the Christ Church (Cambridge) Concert Series. This trio of talented women performing mostly their own arrangements of traditional works have pooled their talents and resources to provide uplifting music and to share proceeds with organizations that promote the welfare of women and families. If you like to support worthy causes, and "smaller" artists who perform in your local area - and you like soothing traditional music for your holiday - this is the one for you.
More Christmas music coming your way next week, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell
Friday, November 29, 2013
Andrew Rangell, piano
ISBN# 0 90404 93312 7
more about Rangell and this CD
My Delight of the Week! Andrew Rangell currently records for multiple labels. It is a testament to his talent, and the breadth of his repertoire. While the majority of his recordings focus on traditional works by Bach and Beethoven, he has also explored really challenging composers, and interesting comparison pairings like this recording of mostly "theme and variation" compositions. Again, mostly traditional, with more experimental works of Nielsen & Bizet. This is the kind of recording that encourages & inspires the heart and mind of pianists.
CRYSTAL RECORDS 822
ISBN# 0 09414 78222 9
info. on Harpsichordist Layton James
info. on lead oboe, Erin Hannigan
This has been a big year for releases of Zelenka's works. Musicians of note have been re-exploring his works and finding him worthy. It only took a few hundred years! A contemporary of Bach and Vivaldi, his works become a welcome addition to Baroque repertoire, and a joy to have them recorded by artists who are also recognized soloists.
Joshua Bell (violin) & Friends
SONY MASTERWORKS 74318
ISBN# 8 8883 74318 2 8
Joshua Bell's website
Mostly Christmas music, and some Hannukkah selections, with a wide cross-over collection of big name friends. Renee Fleming and Placido Domingo, Gloria Estefan and Branford Marsalis, Kristin Chenmoweth and Chick Corea... and many others get together for this "Christmas Confusion" mash-up fun. This was designed to be, and is sure to be a Holiday sales winner!
Quartet San Fancisco
JCCD # 109
ISBN# 6 66449 83502 5
website for Quartet San Francisco
If you were putting together a companion set of chamber works for maximum contrast, the Zelenka CD and this would sum up the extremes. The concert works here are a mixture of new sound-world explorations in some, and a cross-over sensibility that abounds in the concert world today. Totally "relevant" and often very appealing.
The Maryland State Boychoir
Stephen Holmes, Art. Dir.
ISBN# 7 00261 38622 5
MD State Boychoir
Traditional works sung by our state Ambassadors! A wide variety of choral works, from religious and Christmas songs, to show tunes, traditional American folk and spirituals. This boychoir has traveled and performed internationally and regularly gives masterclasses in choral work. Thanks to SU PR man Richard Culver, who provided a copy of this CD to us when the boychoir was performing locally.
Tune in next week when we start full force Christmas releases - Just Opened!
Kara Dahl Russell
Friday, November 22, 2013
Today on Just Opened we focus on great female musicians through time.
Velvet Brown, tuba
Mary McDonald, piano
POTENZA MUSIC 1019
ISBN# 6 70541 35897 9
For more info. on Brown & her CD
My Delight of the Week! (Quite possibly my delight of the year!)
Velvet Brown has the kind of bio that makes the jaw drop in awe and wonder. Concert appearances through Europe, Eastern Europe, Canada and the U.S., principal tuba with New Hampshire Music Fest., Altoona Symphony Orch., Lahti (Finland) Philharmonic, appearances on "Praire Home Companion" are just the start. Add her professorship at multiple universities and a founding board member of the International Women's Brass Conference. Now forget all that, and just listen to the glorious - velvety - sound she elicits from a notoriously difficult instrument, the tuba. This CD is a display of virtuosity to a rare degree on an instrument rarely thought of as a "solo voice." While listening to this I was reminded of listening to the voice of Paul Robeson... how his low notes make your chest cavity vibrate to the sound; these works do the same thing, it's a beautiful, full-body listening experience. A savvy collection and selections of beloved arias and accessible new works makes this a very memorable CD.
Berlin Radio Symphony Orch.
Vienna Philharmonic Orch.
Andris Nelsons, cond.
D.G. 19046 (2 CD set)
ISBN# 0 28947 91058 9
link to Grimaud CD preview & interview
Now one of the realible international piano phenomenons of her generation, Helene Grimmaud takes a reflective personal journey into the music of Brahms. This 2 CD set revisits one concerto that she had recorded earlier in her career, which she approaches with more life experience to bring to the piece, and adds the other of the great pair. Grimaud is not just a concert pianist, but also has published several novels, and has founded her own organization to help conserve/preserve wolves. This thoughtful established artist brings a wealth of thought and interests to her main career. Brahms is still considered the gold-standard for many orchestra lovers. This 2 CD set is sure to be a good gift-bet for the holiday season.
Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, Cilea, Bizet
Berlin Radio Symphony
Richard Kraus, Janos Kulka, Ferenc Fricsay,
& Herbert Von Karajan, conductors
D.G. 477 6614
ISBN# 0 28947 76614 8
bio for Dominques
This CD is part of Deutsche Grammophon/Universal's international releases of digitalized older recordings of great artists of previous generations. (Dominques was born in 1925.) One of the great "Carmen"s, Mexican mezzo Dominques was hailed for her "velvet soft, dark toned, bequilingly attractive mezzo" voice, and known for bringing vocal authority to a range of composers from Montiverdi to Wagner. This selection of her great moments range from Rossini's Cinderella to Verdi's Requiem.
May Phang, piano
ISBN# 8 02114 30332 5
bio of May Phang
An infectiously engaging piano recital of works by Liszt (several transcriptions of Wagner melodies), romantic era "pop" concert selections, a trio of Stephen Foster melodies, and a new work by Sy Brandon (whose modern melodicism is popping up everywhere in performances from brass to guitar - he has such a way with a tune). Phang is on staff at DePauw Univeristy, where this was recorded, and maintains a regular schedule of concerts and master classes.
You Go, Girls!
Join us next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell
Friday, November 15, 2013
It took a few days for the news to filter from French newspapers to British to NPR headlines, but the great piano maker of Chopin's favorite piano, Salle Pleyel has announced its closing.
As of today, their website does not have this mention, but you can still go to their website to see their exquisite, top-of-the-line, often one-of-a-kind pianos (and furniture).
Pleyel Piano website
(Be sure to look at designer pianos under "buy your piano" for some eye-popping piano designs.)
Here's a "news roundup" of the story reported in various world press:
France24 coverage (in English)
London Telgraph coverage
New York Times coverage
Wall Street Journal coverage
A HOPEFUL NOTE: Even with the announced closing, the lid may not be shut forever... Just as Stienway pianos in the US had a buyout which allowed them to be a branch of a larger corporate stucture and continue production and a fair amount of continuity, something similar could still enable Pleyel to keep playing. Steinway's new structure involves a connection with Sony and featured artsits, as well as a recent DVD on how pianos are made that promotes the showroom, the pianos, and the artists. Pleyel having reduced it's production significantly in the past few years, focusing primarily on high end pianos (think: couturier dresses of the piano world), the future of Pleyel could hinge on being flexible enough to move into the new world of interconnectivity.
And finally, a blog post by Stephen Hough about the kind of pianos that virtuosos have at home:
Kara Dahl Russell
Mary Stuckemeyer, basson
Gail Novak, piano
ISBN #6 70541 35951 8
For more info. & purchase
My Delight of the Week! I've mentioned before how much I like the bassoon, but ... not always the new works written for it. Stuckemeyer has a great sense of what works for the bassoon and has chosen a select platter of sweets. Playing since the age of 11 (and a clear sense of business smarts and humor) has given her a honed target on what people like to hear on her chosen instrument. Expertly paired with pianist Gail Novak, this is a sweet treat!
Garrick Ohlsson, piano
ISBN # 0 90404 94092 7
Ohlsson's bio & CD info.
My two favorite Liszt works are on this CD "The Play of Water at the Villa D'Este" is a personal favorite, as well as "The Mephisto Waltz." With Funerailles added to the mix, this makes for a very appropriate follow up to Halloween. Ohlsson is well known to NPR listeners nation-wide as musically reliable and astute. This is a solid gift option.
ISBN# 8 84501 95161 6
Ravel's beloved work for harp, "Introduction & Allegro" is played by Yolanda Kondonassis, along with soprano Ellie Dehn on "5 Popular Greek Melodies." The Jupiter Quartet plays "String Quartet in F" and the program is completed with "Chansons Madecasses." Excellent musicians from one of the top conservatories in the U.S. bring you the range of Ravel's music from the challenging, to the engaging, to the absolute pleasure.
SIMON RATTLE, cond.
ISBN # 8 8883 73225 2 2
for more information
Take a look at the cover of this CD. Look at the placement of the Composer names, and the works compared to the soloist and conductor. The size of the type face tells you that these two Composers can be difficult to "sell," and that the performers are being used as the promotion. While it is true that both Prokofiev and Bartok have created many works that can try the patience of the most adventuresome concert goer, it is also true that the two chosen works here are both exploratory AND very engaging. This very smart pairing of two accessible works by sometimes challenging composers makes for energetic, riveting, and surprisingly fun listening. If you cling to the traditional, but want to break out... this is the one you've been waiting for. A pleasant surprise!
Join us next week for more great music, Just Opened!
Kara Dahl Russell
Friday, November 1, 2013
Musical Food for thought.
Do we overuse the word "concert pianist" when we describe an artist?
Professor, pianist, composer Dr. Robert Greenberg wrote this article on our frequent misuse of the term "concert pianist" and has a fairly strict definition of when it is appropriate to use. I came across this article about a month ago, and have been thinking about it ever since. I don't always agree with Greenberg, who is nothing if not definite in his opinions, but he does push buttons that make us think about music... and that is really his goal.
article "The Lies We Tell" (who really is a "concert pianist")
By this definition, a concert musician whose income is partially derived from teaching is no longer a "concert pianist." It raises many sticky questions. Just one is the question of whether money and/or income is the deciding factor in what is an essentially artistic title.
For years, actors have struggled with this kind of definition. British actors say, "Professionals get paid." Period. In America - esp. if you apply the standard of being able to make a living at it - this would mean that television actors, even tv commercial models, are professionals, but many long term (paid, union member) stage actors would not be considered professional. Most stage actors, like many musicians, have to teach or have other related income sources. And getting back to music... what about the concert pianist who tours with a big record deal in his/her youth, but then makes a living teaching at conservatory later in life... are they no longer concert artists? The realities of artistic careers may not allow for definitions this unilateral.
Well, whether you agree with Greenberg's definition or not, it does get us thinking about the way we describe artists and perhaps overuse terms like virtuoso and genius in our superlative age.
Kara Dahl Russell (neither a virtuoso nor a "concert harpist")
A new ballet, story & music by Chesky
Rui Massena, cond.
Fundacao Studio Orchestra (Portugal)
CHESKY RECORDS 363
ISBN# 0 90368 03636 0
info on Chesky & the ballet
A new ballet commissioned by the Guimares (Portugal) 2012 "European Capital of Culture." This fanciful story takes place in a world where unicorns have wings (the Zephyrtine), birds always walk, fish fly in the air, people's skin has rainbow colors and ice cream grows on trees.
New Music with Guitar, Vol 8
ISBN # 0 90404 94042 2
more info. on Starobin
Guitar-magnificent Starobin joins forces with baritone Patrick Mason, and percussionists Mari Yoshinaga and Daniel Druckman to give us another set of new works that feature guitar. Varied works, from melodic and toe-tapping, to challenging modern songs, to classically inclined variations on a theme of Carl Nielsen.
The Brook Street Band
ISBN #8 22252 22822 9
In a concert music world that can still seem distressingly chavanistic (think of all the male conductors who groom & mentor young males, or high-powered virtuosos who form "boy's only" crossover groups), it's a joy to see "the sisters are doin' it for themselves." An all female ensemble of excellent musicians, The Brook Street Band (named after Handel's London residence) has been bringing historic works to lively and zesty life since 1995. This is another marvelous venture.
Anagnoson & Kinton
OPENING DAY 7432
ISBN # 7 76143 74322 6
My Delight of the Week!
Even more rare than all-female groups these days are piano duos who have matured together like these two. “…as individuals, they seem to have no technical shortcomings at all; in tandem, they are more than twice as good.” – The Boston Globe Almost 40 years ago, they met at the prestigious Aspen Festival and decided to include a two piano recital to their program. Now having played more than 1000 performances together, their performances of now rarely performed great works for two pianos and one piano/4 hands are an exceptional treat.
Join us next week for more great music, Just Opened!
Kara Dahl Russell
The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Public Radio Delmarva, its staff, members, underwriters, Salisbury University, or the Salisbury University Foundation. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official.